I’m now at home in Pittsburgh and have been reflecting on the incredible experience of the past ten days. It was my first time to Haiti and as the lone cyclist on this trip, I had a unique perspective. Each day, I would ride alongside the runners. It was a chance to see each athlete in their daily routine, carefully putting foot after foot as they navigated busy Haitian roads, all while battling the heat and mental challenge of running such distances. Every time my body ached from hours on the bike seat, I reminded myself how much harder it would be to be running.
Sometimes, I would ride ahead and park my bike on the side of the road. Then I’d sit and observe the people of Haiti in their daily routine. I’d see a woman frying food in a makeshift cook top above burning charcoal, a man hopping onto the back of a pick-up truck that was already crammed to capacity, a mother carrying a child, people talking, walking, going to church. I’d say “Bonjour!” and receive “Bonjour!” in return along with a smile.
Such observations are a reminder of how similar we are as humans. We all have daily routines. We all want happiness and health, safety, and the best for children. We are all vastly more similar than different. This is an important and needed reminder, especially living in America where we often place value on individualism and exclusivity.
There was another thing that was inescapable to observe. Amidst a beautiful terrain and countryside, garbage and pollution are ubiquitous in Haiti. It makes an impression to see it in person. Plastic bottles, Styrofoam, auto parts, and other scraps line the sides of the roads. Goats and chickens pick through the piles. In the city areas, a pungent odor of auto exhaust and general funk fills the air. This was my first visit to a country where the vast majority of people don’t have access to clean water. It’s hard to comprehend this reality without seeing it. This is poverty at the global level.
Living in Haiti for ten days gives new perspective to the relatively minor things we fret about at home. I’m reminded also that by no merit of my own, I was born in a wealthy nation, shielded from deadly diseases, and afforded an excellent education.
The best part of the experience for me was meeting with several families in the community within Port-au-Prince that Team Tassy is working with. Amidst poverty, they exhibited a certain vibrancy and optimism. I could see the theory of action of Team Tassy playing out (helping people become self-sufficient through health and job skills). I got the feeling that dollars spent were not charity or giveaways, but investments in our fellow humans. These families were already role modeling new possibilities to other families in the area. The investments were yielding returns.
If I could leave you with one bit of advice it would be to step outside of your comfort zone. Visit Haiti or another place that you may never have considered. Actively try to get a perspective that is broader than your neighborhood, city, and country. This trip for me has been very valuable and I’m thankful for the opportunity to have participated.